US intelligence’s latest edition of worldwide threat assessment report has warned of a spike in communal violence during the parliamentary polls in India if the BJP stresses “Hindu nationalist themes” and continued to complain of Pakistan’s “recalcitrance” on support for terrorists based on its soil.
Representation Image / Courtesy: Hindustan Times
Washington: In a worldwide threat assessment report, The Director of US National Intelligence has rung alarm bells regarding India. The nation could see a spike in religious violence in the run-up to the general elections in 2019. He has also strongly criticised prime minister Narendra Modi’s term for degrading the country’s religious harmony.
“Parliamentary elections in India increase the possibility of communal violence if Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stresses Hindu nationalist themes,” said the report, presented to the US Senate select committee by Dan Coats, director of national intelligence. “Hindu nationalist state leaders might view a Hindu-nationalist campaign as a signal to incite low-level violence to animate their supporters. Increasing communal clashes could alienate Indian Muslims and allow Islamist terrorist groups in India to expand their influence,” Coats wrote in his statement.
Coats and heads of other top American intelligence agencies appeared before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to present their worldwide threat assessment. Prominent among them included CIA Director Gina Haspel, who has just returned from a trip to India, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Robert Ashley.
The years since Modi took power have seen Hindu majoritarian violence in various forms, including mob lynchings that are often fuelled by social media rumours.
And the BJP is often shown to benefit from such violence. A 2014 study by Yale political scientists showed that the party “saw a 0.8 percentage point increase in their vote share following a riot in the year prior to an election,” a report by Quartz said.
The Coats report also predicts that relations between India and Pakistan will be strained through this May when the election is expected to be held, “and probably beyond” that as well. It cites how terrorist attacks and cross-border firing have continued to occur in Kashmir, reducing the likelihood of rapprochement between the two South Asian rivals.
“The challenges facing South Asian states will grow in 2019 because of Afghanistan’s presidential election in mid-July and the Taliban’s large-scale attacks, Pakistan’s recalcitrance in dealing with militant groups, and Indian elections that risk communal violence,” the report said.